Time management demonstrates a one-size-fits-all approach to managing meetings, tasks, agendas and so forth. In fact, most people have been taught that, to effectively time manage, you should always do the most important task first. However, this often requires us to use a large amount of mental energy on the ‘important’ tasks, resulting in decreased productivity in the long-term. Instead of focusing on time management, we should be aiming for sustained high performance.
Sustained high performance is achieved when your effort levels are kept at a minimum and, as a result, you avoid burning out. It’s important to remember that you have more control over your daily schedule than you think, and taking control of your day-to-day tasks can lead to being more productive, and less stressed.
Here are 3 tips on how you can manage your energy, not your time:
1. Know your natural pace
While some people prefer to work for shorter periods and work well with distractions, others prefer to work for longer periods, and find that distractions burn energy and waste time. Most people are under the impression that focusing for longer, or working until the task is done, is the most productive way to operate, but it doesn’t work for everyone.
Let’s say you have a 60-minute task, and your focus time is 30 minutes. If you don’t switch to something else after 30 minutes, or take a quick energy break, the remaining 30 minutes of that task will probably take extra time; say 40 minutes. That’s 10 minutes of wasted time and energy, which is not efficient or productive.
2. Set your pace in motion
Plan your day according to when you can complete your heavy, medium, and light tasks best. For example, if you are a morning person then that’s a good time to get through your heavy tasks. If your urgent task happens to be light, then doing them in the morning is a waste of energy. Likewise, if you are not a morning person, don’t try and be one! Accept the fact that you are more productive in the afternoon, and set your heavy tasks then.
The more you manage your energy and not your time, the more you will get through your to-do list. Remember, one of the biggest inhibitors to productivity is excess stress.
3. Embrace ‘good’ stress
A little bit of stress—enough to get you working in your productive zone— is good. Here, you have the right amount of stress to get the task done in a shorter than normal space of time, and then the stress subsides, not causing long term health effects. If you don’t manage your energy, you will find that you are often in the ‘overwhelm’ or unproductive stress zone. When you are overwhelmed, tasks start to take you longer and the stress doesn’t subside once the task is done. This can result in long-term health issues and decreased productivity; the opposite of sustained high performance.